Mother Theresa of Calcutta once said, “There is more hunger for love and appreciation in the world than there is for bread”. This was and still is quite profound as we often hear of the numbers of people in the world that are starving for food. Going without appreciation or love is a very different kind of starvation; a deprivation that has tremendous negative implications for those who go without. The consequences are suffered not only by those who starve, but for many others as well.

As a professional helper in a variety of social services I can attest to witnessing a myriad of individual, family and community problems and subsequent negative repercussions. Many challenges we experience with others surface as a result of relationship disruption or emotional deprivation. A great deal of human suffering and adversity are products of or an accumulation of various dislocated, disrupted, detached or detritus relationships. The World Health Organization (WHO) speculates that by the year 2020 depression will be the second leading cause of disability in the world. Lack of human connection, isolation and loneliness are major causes of depression. In developed countries depression is among the leading causes of disability and excess mortality. According to the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Washington (2010) the estimated economic cost of depression is over 30 billion dollars a year, but the total cost of human suffering is immeasurable.

What does this have to do with me or you? We all share this wonderful planet. No one is immune from the positive or negative elements and/or dynamics that occur in our global community. What happens here affects us all! What doesn’t happen here; a deficiency of meaningful and significant human connections, in particular, affects us all. Given the current prevalence and projected global increase of depression we will all be impacted, whether it is emotionally, mentally, physically, socially or financially,

There is HOPE! Believe it or not, you can help make the world a better place and potentially alter the trajectory of global depression and its multiple implications. I believe this to be true. Maybe I’m foolish or naively and eternally optimistic, but I’m just quirky that way. The remainder of this newsletter is geared towards stimulating thinking and feeling about the possibilities that small changes can have profound impacts and; how 3 simple things (you can do) can make the lives of individuals, families, communities and the world better.

In order to make such a grandiose idea and/or endeavour work we must believe in the ripple effect. That is, when a good thing happens, there can be a ripple effect that extends out and beyond the single positive action or interaction, setting in motion subsequent or consequential events that continue to impact or operate in positive ways. It is this thinking that supports our potential to make the world better.

Many of us want to do good things. We want to make things better for us and for others. However, there are some of us that think to make a positive difference or contribution in the world we need to have a lot of money, or influential connections or, acquire special resources, skills or, develop specific talents and extraordinary capacities. This type of thinking while well intentioned can in actuality become a barrier to attempting any efforts at affecting positive change at all. While money, influential connections, special resources and extraordinary skills can help, we do not have to wait for or accumulate those things in order to make a positive difference for others.

Three Simple Things

Acknowledge – Admire – Appreciate

ALL of us are equipped with the capacity to make positive differences in the lives of others.

We have all been gifted with the ability to impact individuals in ways that:

  • Positively alter brain chemistry
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Increase overall health
  • Increase happiness
  • Increase motivation
  • Increase cooperation
  • Increase confidence
  • Increase resilience
  • Increase success
  • Enhance relationships
  • Promote and enhance human connections
  • …and much more

How can you do this? What are these 3 simple things? They are gifts which you already possess. They are what I refer to as the 3 A’s: Acknowledgement, Admiration and Appreciation. These 3 things are actually not that hard to do at all. They range in effort, from simple to a little less simple. The only thing you need is the will and choice to activate them. The following are basic definitions of what I refer to as the 3 A’s. Provided also are some concrete examples of how to DO or enact the 3 A’s. It is important to note that the 3 A’s are relevant to most Western cultures. Further to this, cultural sensitivity should be a consideration with respect to cultural appropriateness and relevance of the 3 A’s.

Acknowledge

To recognize or confirm something or someone as valid or existing.

This is the simplest of the 3 A’s as it requires the least amount of effort. However, the amount of effort one places in it is entirely a choice and up to the individual doing the acknowledging. Some examples of acknowledgment may include but are not limited to:

  • Making eye contact
  • Nodding
  • Raising eye brows and tipping head
  • Waving
  • Saying “Hi, Hello or Hey There”
  • Asking “How are you?”
  • Stating “Nice to see you.”
  • Saying, “Nice day, eh.” (Very specific to my fellow Canadians)
  • Saying “Have a ‘good one’.”
  • …insert your specific options and choices here

Admire

To like or find favour in something or someone.

This particular A requires a little more effort compared to Acknowledgment as the endeavour is grounded in finding favour in something or with someone. However, I like the adage, “if we seek we will find”. Displays of admiration, which will be unique to the individual or situation, include but are not limited to:

  • Approving or favourable smile
  • Approving or favourable nod
  • Statements such as:
    • I like what you did
    • I like what you’re wearing
    • I like what you said
    • I like what you built
    • I like what you stand for
    • I like the way you think
    • I like you
    • I love you
    • …insert your specific options and choices here

Appreciate

To recognize with gratitude.

This particular A is taken very seriously as it is foundational to the Getting to Better philosophy – “Rarely if ever, are great things achieved or great people made without the support of others”. We all have people in our lives that make valuable contributions to support what we do and who we are. You are great! Who supports you in the great things you do and becoming the great person you are? Appreciate them!

Some examples of appreciation, which will be unique to the individual or situation, include but are not limited to:

  • Saying thank you for an effort
  • Saying thank you for a contribution
  • Saying thank you for help
  • Saying thank you for support
  • Saying thank you for a gift
  • Saying thank you for patience
  • Saying thank you for compassion
  • Saying thank you for tolerance
  • Saying thank you for an accomplishment
  • Saying thank you for You
  • …insert your specific options and choices here

The 3 A’s have been referred to by many as helping us humans fill and replenish our “emotional bank accounts”. When our accounts are full, we have the resources to cope, adapt and give back! There are so many amazing things about the 3 A’s, but the greatest I believe is, that they can be enacted and utilized in almost any situation, at anytime with almost anyone!

Do not underestimate the POSITIVE POWER and POTENTIAL the 3 A’s may have when they are enacted. As a mater of fact, there is plenty of research regarding the affirming implications of positive reinforcement in various forms of the 3 A’s. I spent time compiling a plethora of such data in preparation for this article; however, I did not want to give formal research too much emphasis or weight for fear that it would detract from the real expert; the researcher on your own experience – YOU! You do not need formal research to tell you what you already know. The 3 A’s FEEL GOOD!

Reflection: The 3 A’s and YOU

Think about a time in your life when you were Acknowledged, Admired or Appreciated by someone for something you did, something you said, or just for being you. Maybe it was at a time when you really needed it. Maybe it was from someone important in your life. Or, maybe it was just from someone. What was that like? How did it make you feel? Stay with that experience for a moment. What was the impact? What was the potential? I am going to go on a limb and guess that however or whatever your unique experience was, it was probably positive. Now, imagine if you had that experience or that feeling more often, or even all of the time. What would that be like?

I asked my 11 year old son, Brayden, who is still early on in his career as a human being, what it is like for him when he is acknowledged, admired or appreciated. Without hesitating he said, “I feel good inside, especially in my heart.” I followed up with “Really.” He continued, “Ya, it makes me want to be better; to do better”. And that was it. What more do I need? That’s enough research for me. You can do more of your own research. Pay attention to how it makes you feel. Share it with important people in your life. Ask others what it is like for them when you or someone enacts one or more of the 3 A’s with them.

Where from Here? A Call to Action!

I may be a dreamer; changing the trajectory of global depression and all of its negative implications? Yep! I think so. I believe that if everybody realized the positive power and potential we all have within us to affect change through the simple and consistent enactment of the 3 A’s, we will make the lives of many others better. Pay attention to your experience, your research.

What If…

What if? What if each day, everybody did something to Acknowledge, Admire or Appreciate someone or something? Maybe right now (or following the reading of this article) you or someone else will decide to increase use of one or more of the 3 A’s; maybe it’s with their own children, a partner, a neighbour, a co-worker or a complete stranger! Could you imagine? The impacts would be profound and possibly immeasurable! Maybe we could measure the impacts and possibly by 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) would be surprised that depression isn’t the second leading contributor to human disability or excess mortality in developed nations?

Would you like to help me out with this lofty goal? I definitely can not do this alone. Let’s do it together. That’s my simple Call to Action. It is my personal goal to continue enacting as many of the 3 A’s as often as possible with as many people as possible until there is not a breath left in my body. Hopefully by then, however, I will have “filled” enough emotional bank accounts so that my contributions will continue to impact in positive and meaningful ways. However, I do not expect you or anyone else to do what I am attempting to do. I just hope and wish that people take the amazing gifts that they have and do what they can. That’s all.

References

http://www.psychiatry.wustl.edu/depression/depression_facts.htm
http://www.who.int/mental_health